If you’re lucky enough to have been present when an Irish music session takes over a pub, then you’ll understand what I’m about to share. But like social media marketing? Read on.
I love an Irish music session. It’s a thing of beauty to watch as well as listen too. Musicians playing reels and jigs, music so compelling I can’t help but tap my feet. Lately I’ve been combing YouTube to see what they have for sessions on video. I found some and began watching. It’s not uncommon to see two or three of the same instruments playing at the same time in a session. In most sessions, novices are welcome as are beginners and sometimes there’s a friendly challenge like speeding up the tune to see who can keep up. But it’s not about who’s the best. It’s about having fun, sharing a love of music for their own enjoyment and the spectators get the benefit of the content they produce.
So as I was watching a few of these videos, the connection between an Irish music session and social media marketing hit me. What does an Irish music session have to do with Social Media Marketing? I think they have a lot in common. Let’s take a look at the pieces that make up a great session and what social media marketers can learn from them.
- The right content for the audience. While an Irish session is welcome almost anywhere, they tend to form and draw crowds in pubs and music festivals – places where the audience can sit down, relax, share a pint with friends and enjoy the music. Musicians are in the pubs for the same reason. They just bring instruments – and share their content. And their content is very welcome. So if we want to reach our audience, we need to be sure we’re sitting in the seat next to them and seeing and hearing the world through their eyes and ears. They may want our content but it should be delivered when and where they’re most likely to consume it.
- The right mix of knowledge and skills. Each instrument requires a set of skills unique to that instrument. Guitars are strummed, fiddles are bowed, bodhrans are thumped. It often takes years to master an instrument. And when the different instruments come together in the hands of skilled musicians the music that rises fills whatever space it’s in with warmth and cheer. As marketers the content we create should feel as familiar and inviting. We’re skilled at what we do and ideally know our audience well. To reach them, we need use our knowledge and skills to craft messaging that feels familiar and makes them receptive. It shouldn’t feel like marketing speak. It should be helpful and sincere.
- Good instruments, well tuned, and familiar. Musicians spend hundreds of hours to learn how to play their instrument of choice. Musicians are craftspeople. They have developed a skill and keep their tools in good shape. They know their instruments well. They know the feel of the neck and strings, the heft & balance in their hands. Their instrument feels as familiar as a pencil or pint glass. As marketers we must grow to know and trust our own tools. To know what to expect from them and whether or not they’re in tune with the truth. The art of what we do is being able to sample the results of many tools and knowing their strengths and weaknesses, see what’s really happening.
- Not missed when it’s not there but appreciated when it is. Before the musicians begin to pull out their instruments the people at the pub are often engaged in conversations. They’re most likely happy with things as they are. But the moment a music case comes into view and is opened, you can feel the attention shift and the energy level begin to rise. Our audience is oblivious to us and doing what they do online right now. The anticipation of our content isn’t there unless we’ve already built a loyal following. But with great content, we can build expectation and earn our audience’s attention. Building the anticipation takes time and effort but it’s worth it. Exceptional content does more than add to the noise that’s already out there. It rises above the noise. It demands notice and earns trust. Once we’ve established credibility with an audience and they find value in what we offer, they’ll look for the next piece we share.
- The ability to acknowledge and share with peers. No one in the session is there as a solo act. The session is all about sharing. Watch the musicians in an open session (some are open by invitation only but that’s another story). I’ve seen them focus on their music but I’ve also seen them look at each other, admire each other’s work, watch how the other musicians play, and even talk while playing. Some will take a momentary break to get a sip and others tune their instrument. Sessions are dynamic conversations on multiple levels. So should our content be. We don’t know everything. Each of us has our own way of playing the online marketing game and each of us does it differently. We learn from each other. We make professional connections in order to learn and share. We attend conferences to learn, share, exchange ideas, seek answers, and swap stories. We don’t do this work in a vacuum. Acknowledgement and appreciation of our peers is important.
- Start slow and settle into a rhythm. Many of the tunes played at a session are often started by a single instrument. Fingers gently pressing buttons of an accordion as the musician slowly remembers the tune or as a call to the others to join and giving them time to join in. Once the tune picks up the musicians settle into their parts and the fun really begins. I think it’s wise to allow an audience to adjust to your content. Don’t force feed them. Good marketing content sets the stage and with each successive piece, slowly ramps up the messaging. Starting slow gives you time to gauge the audience and adjust as necessary.
- The ability to enjoy the moment and forget yourself. Sessions are all about having fun. A good session takes people’s minds off their lives and responsibilities. They draw their audience in and entertain them. Good content will do the same for your product or service. Good content tells a story. Great content takes them away even if only for a moment. Make it memorable by just being who you are and sharing what you have.